Three days after Christmas 2015, Two Men and a Truck showed up at our home in Elkhart, Indiana, to load up our stuff during a winter storm.
Our move to Morgantown, W. Va., could be considered slow and sudden at the same time – slow in that it takes a lot of time to pack everything perfectly over weeks, and drive 430 miles in an ice storm, and sudden in that we were moving from our Michiana home of 25 years after selling our house in a week.
Currently, my wife Jennifer and I are living the Bohemian lifestyle on an air mattress in our apartment while we look for our next home, and our stuff sits in storage.
We’ve had some good times in Morgantown already, as the dining options are excellent, the folks are friendly, and the trails and forks in the roads are endless.
As there are many things to do and see in the Middle Atlantic, Easter weekend seemed like the perfect time for a three-day getaway.
We took WV-7 E and MD-39 to Oakland, Maryland, where we had stopped during our 2015 summer vacation. From there we headed south back into West Virginia on U.S. Route 219, along which we discovered “Our Lady of The Pines” in Silver Lake, “a small, well-kept Roman Catholic church in rural West Virginia. It has been promoted on old vellum postcards as the ‘Smallest Church in 48 States.'” As it was Good Friday, Jen and I took a few moments amidst the tall pines and in the sanctuary and felt refreshed when we hopped back in the car.
Shortly thereafter we were pleasantly surprised to find Thomas, W.Va., along the Blackwater River on US-219. Nearby in Davis, W.Va., is Blackwater Falls State Park, which we plan on visiting when it’s a bit warmer. As it was drizzling, we visited antique shops on the main drag (WV-32), where other shops, eateries, and places such as the Purple Fiddle keep Thomas hopping.
Five minutes down WV-32 is Davis, and this is where we found Hellbender Burritos. I went with the Face Plant Burrito, and as it was as big as a Hellbender Salamander, the largest aquatic salamander in the U.S. (the owner showed a picture to me of one that had swallowed a trout that a fisherman had hooked), I shouldn’t have been surprised to have a scene from the X-Files greet me when I used the men’s room.
After our excellent lunch we headed east on WV-93, which becomes U.S. Route 48, an absolutely beautiful drive that would eventually take us into Virginia. But first we detoured south about an hour to Lost River State Park in Mathias, W.Va., where we had the whole park to ourselves for a picturesque hike.
By the time the sun had set we parked it at the Hampton Inn in Warrenton, about an hour-and-a-half north of James Madison’s Montpelier, which was our first destination the next morning.
History is a love for both of us, and recently I have been revisiting the American Revolutionary period and our Founding Fathers, and Jen continues to enjoy U.S. presidential history.
Recently, Montpelier, near Orange, Va., off of U.S. Route 15, has undergone an authentic restoration, and the one-hour “Signature Tour” of the home was quite informative and enjoyable, thanks to Chuck Young, our interpreter and guide.
We began our visit in the Madison family cemetery, where spring was blooming and the birds were chirping, and ended our visit in the Annie duPont Garden, in which space Madisonian-era vegetables and fruits had once flourished.
After three hours at Montpelier, we headed south through Charlottesville and west to Waynesboro, where we grabbed a very hearty burger at Jake’s Bar and Grill. We would need all the protein we could get, because soon after we had entered the Shenandoah National Park on the Skyline Drive, where we would stop for two different hikes on our way north.
Our first stop was at Blackrock Summit, which was a fairly easy one-mile circuit hike. The views were outstanding, and the geology fascinating.
We then stopped at Frazier Discovery Trail, for a 1.3-mile circuit hike which is more moderate to difficult, but rewarding all the same.
There are more than 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park, and Skyline Drive winds for 109 miles. We were lucky to witness a beautiful sunset, and then twilight brought out the hundreds of deer feeding alongside the drive as we headed north.
We ended up back at the Hampton Inn in Warrenton, which wasn’t planned, but oh so welcome.
Easter Sunday’s destination was Berkeley Springs, W.Va., the country’s first spa, and a very friendly community where we were surprised to see most of the shops open, and where we had a delicious Easter Sunday meal at Tari’s Cafe.
After lunch we visited Berkeley Springs State Park (by the way, all of West Virginia’s State Parks are free), and had a nice conversation with a couple who were filling water containers with the historic mountain spring mineral water that for over 250 years has brought visitors to the area.
This is also where George Washington’s bath tub resides. He travelled here frequently, and once wrote:
“We found of both sexes about 250 people at this place, full of all manner of diseases and complaints; some of which are benefited, while others find no relief from the waters . . . I think myself benefitted from the water and am not without hope of their making a cure of me — a little time will show now . . .”
A little time is what Jennifer and I needed, and even though we drove more than 700 miles in three days, it turned out to be an enjoyable Easter excursion.